Yesterday, the Washington Post broke the story about a West Texas hunting camp that Gov. Rick Perry and his family used to lease and where he hosted fellow politicians and supporters. The camp was known by the name “Niggerhead,” and the offensive word was painted onto a large rock at the entrance to the camp. The Perry campaign contends that neither the governor nor his family painted the slur on the rock and that when they first leased the property in 1983, his father painted over the offensive word. Seven other people with whom the Post spoke said the name remained for a long time.
I have been saying it for weeks - do not count out Newt Gingrich. And, this morning's Washington Post, after some snarkiness about Gingrich's hawking his, and his wife's books, notes that he has recently, as a result of Perry's tanking, been the beneficiary of a rise in the polls, something that say, Mitt Romney can't claim.
Gingrich is smarter than the others on the stage, possibly smart them all of them put together. Conservatives can love him in a way they can't love Romney. Mainstreamers can allow that he is not a loon. He may only be everyone's second choice at the moment, but given the make-up of the field, and the ideological divisions within the GOP electorate, that may be the best place to be right now.
Check out the USCCB webpage for the feast of St. Francis!
I was getting a bit worried after I picked up a bishop at the airport a couple of weeks ago and said I had thought of bringing one of my dogs along for the ride. He said, "Thank God you didn't. I am not a dog person." Of course, he has not met my three fabulous beasts, Bernie (black lab mix), Clementine (boarder collie mix) and Ambrose (all St. Bernard). The completely live out the Franciscan ideal of gentleness and peace, provided they get their treats.
Professor Charles Camosy of Fordham has a post up about the recent symposium on the New Evangelization, sponsored by the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, to which a group of young theologians was invited. I hope the organizers of the event will consider Camosy's thoughtful remarks deeply if they want to truly build a better relationship between the bishops and these younger theologians.
Mitt Romney has posted an attack ad on his website that chastises Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his decision to grant the children of undocumented workers access to the state's public universities at in-state tuition rates. I gotta tell ya: The ad is brilliant at achieving its aim, but creepy in the way it reduces former Mexican President Vincent Fox to a tool to rile up the GOP base. President Fox was the first candidate to win the presidency of Mexico who did not belong to the PRI, the party that had controlled Mexico since the revolution. He had his failures in office, to be sure, but he helped turn Mexico from a one party state into a functioning, if challenged, democracy. He did this at no small risk to his personal safety: Lest we forget, another reformist candidate for the presidency, Luis Colosio, has been assassinated in 1994 when he ran.
In this ad, however, you have the sneaking suspicion that the only thing the Romney camp wanted from former President Fox was his heavy accent. It is shameless.
This week, some commentators, among them Sarah Palin, have characterized the GOP race at this stage as having a “flavor of the month” quality to it. The metaphor is not exact. It implies either that the whole campaign is essentially a marketing campaign and/or that the GOP primary electorate is so enormously fickle, that they cannot stay with any single candidate for more than a month and need to move on to someone else. But, that is not the real issue and so the metaphor does not enlighten so much as it beclouds.
Any survey undertaken by Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox of the Public Religion Research Institute, and worked into a report with the assistance of E. J. Dionne and Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution, is going to make for some interesting reading. They are four of the brightest, and nicest, people in DC. And, the issues examined in this study are critical. At a time when the GOP presidential candidates are busy explaining what they think it means to be an American, the attitudes of actual Americans is worth considering.
The survey has good news - 88 percent of Americans believe that America is a place where all religions, even those that are not popular, should be respected and afforded full legal rights. Also, some bad news, to wit: "Approximately two-thirds of Republicans, Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement, and Americans who most trust Fox News agree that the values of Islam are at odds with American values. A majority of Democrats, Independents, and those who most trust CNN or public television disagree."
There is an assumption in certain political circles that if the HHS mandate regarding contraception and sterilization in all insurance plans does not include a broader conscience exemption, somehow Catholic institutions will learn to get along. But, in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Father John Jenkins, CSC, President of Notre Dame, makes a very telling point. He writes, "This would compel Notre Dame to either pay for contraception and sterilization in violation of the church's moral teaching, or to discontinue our employee and student health care plans in violation of the church's social teaching. It is an impossible position."
Father Jenkins makes a point that had not previously occured to me - or to anyone else whose writings on this topic I have seen. It is just as morally objectionable to stop providing health care coverage as it is to provide coverage for procedures we find morally objectionable.
Next Wednesday, Catholic University is hosting an all day symposium on the priesthood to commemorate the publication of a new book by Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, Why Priests are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests. Professor Joseph White will give an historical analysis of the priesthood., Archbishop Wilton Gregory will discuss the findings in the new book from the perspective of a diocesan bishop, and Msgr. Robert Panke will discuss the work’s implications for seminary discernment and formation. That is quite a line-up but it is appropriate because of the importance of the subject matter.
Yossi Klein Halevi is one of the most thoughtful analysts of Mideast politics. In a post up at TNR,he looks at how Obama rose to the occasion posed by the Palestinian Authority's bid for addmission to the United Nations while Bill Clinton failed to do so, as well as examining the performance of the other principals. Smart, smart, smart.